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Patrick Mallon - Columnist

Patrick Mallon is a freelance journalist and author of California Dictatorship: How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis [read an excerpt]. His website is at and he can be contacted at [go to Mallon index]

California Dictatorship:
How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis

by Patrick Mallon

The inside story of the people´s revolt against an unresponsive and unpopular chief executive.
[Order it at Amazon.] Read an excerpt

Dumbed Down Dems Get Dumber
The power struggle over California's broken education system...
[Patrick Mallon]

California's lowered-expectation Democrats have embarked on a pleasantly foul strategy to cope with the state's horrific national ranking of 48 out of 50 states in K-12 academic performance – cancel entirely the already-tabled high school exit exam required to receive a diploma. The exam has become a public relations nightmare for the ruling leftists who dominate both bodies of the legislature in Sacramento.

Ironically, Democrats can’t seem to escape the responsibilities and consequences of some of the good decisions made by other Democrats.

The high school exit exam, the brainchild of one-time Democrat state senator, now Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O' Connell, and the mantelpiece of former “education governor” Gray Davis, was enacted into law in 1999, and scheduled for first use with the state's graduating class of 2004.

However, in July 2003, the California State Board of Education issued a memo titled “State Board of Education Delays Consequences of California High School Exit Exam. Decision postpones exit exam as graduation requirement to class of 2006.” The critical portion of the memo reads as follows:

The action means students in the classes of 2004 and 2005 are no longer required to pass the exit exam as a condition of earning a high school diploma. Instead, the class of 2006 will be the first class that must pass the exit exam as a requirement of graduation. The State Board delayed the exit exam in the wake of a recent independent external evaluation that found the test has been a “major factor” in boosting standards-based instruction and learning but that many students, for different reasons, may not have benefited from courses of initial and remedial instruction to master the required standards.

Translated – the state was worried that an estimated 30-40 percent of 2004 examinees would have failed the test, resulting in thousands of lawsuits filed by angry parents.

This type of exam is nothing new. High school exit exams are now required in 19 states.

So, a pioneering "Queen Bee of Self Esteem" has arrived to save the day. Her name is Karen Bass, a newly elected assemblywoman from Los Angeles. According to Jim Sanders of the Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau ("Activist takes office, comes out swinging," March 14, 2005):

"Bass, the state's only African American female legislator, is a former nurse and physician's assistant with brown belts in tae kwon do and hapkido martial arts.

"The freshman Los Angeles Democrat is likely to need both skills; toughness and compassion, in tackling one of California's most controversial education issues: the high school exit exam.

"Shortly after unpacking her bags at the Capitol, Bass launched a bid to eliminate the requirement that no diploma be given to high school students who fail the exam, beginning next year.

"If you begin taking the test in the 10th grade and you're not passing it, what's your incentive to finish high school?" Bass asked. "The last thing in the world we want to do is increase the dropout rate."

How inspiring! Just what every ambitious kid needs…a mentor in calling it quits.

Here is the key language of her proposal (AB 1531):

Existing law requires, commencing with the 2003-04 school year and each school year thereafter, each pupil completing grade 12 to successfully pass the exit examination as a condition of graduation from high school. Existing law requires the board, in consultation with the Superintendent, to study the appropriateness of other criteria by which high school pupils who are regarded as highly proficient but unable to pass the exit examination may demonstrate their competency and receive a high school diploma.

Is she serious? "High school pupils who are regarded as highly proficient but unable to pass the exit examination?" What is a high school senior "highly proficient" at if they can't pass a test that educators rate as equivalent to 10th-grade standards? Maybe this language is only an invitation to lawyers to start feeding at the public trough.

You have to hand it to Bass, and other equally dumbed-down progressives like fellow legislators Gil Cedillo, Gloria Romero and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez for their perpetual desire to look out for the best interests of children.

Why, Sacramento is so filled with glee for Bass's activism that they envision her as a potential future assembly speaker when Nunez is termed out in 2008. Nunez, overjoyed with Bass's stance, has already selected Bass as the majority whip.

So Ms. Bass has her marching orders, well-timed to coincide with the governor's proposals for teacher merit pay. After all, if there are no standards to test the educational progress of students, there's no way to determine whether teachers are doing their jobs.

It would seem that Ms. Bass should be more focused on content, aptitude and qualifying students for advancement, and less on doctrinaire liberalism, mediocrity, and self esteem. What is more expensive to the child and the state as a whole? An uneducated dropout, or a valuable contributing individual who works hard in school, sees the value of academic success, and prepares themselves for a lifelong competitive world? The dropout rate is already a huge problem. Ms. Bass's "solution" will only make it worse.

According to the Marin Independent Journal in April 2004, “13 percent of the state’s high school students dropped out last year, according to figures released by the state Department of Education. However, using an alternative method—considered by some educators as far more accurate—the state’s dropout rate was about 30 percent for the same period.”

Talk about depressing. With 7 million students in K-12 and upwards of 30 percent of those kids dropping out, I can't imagine any parent being happy with a party that openly advocates reducing educational standards as some form of constructive response to an embarrassing condition. And yet Democrats are again, venerated, glorified, and exalted for running counter to public objectives. Leave it to "One Bill" Gil Cedillo to make the Democrat's most ludicrous observation about the rise of the Karen Bass philosophy of educational excellence:

"There are certain people who just have this moral authority, this sense of leadership about them. And she's one."

Parents who continue to vote Democrat over progressive policies like these should realize that they are being victimized by deceitful politicians who purport to help their families.

Not a single parent should be satisfied if their undereducated child ends up with backbreaking menial work washing dishes and cleaning houses because nothing more was expected of them, when they could have become doctors, scientists, accountants, and engineers. The “activists” in control have decided that educational excellence takes a back seat to the raw pursuit of political power on the back of innocent kids.

That’s disgraceful! CRO



Patrick Mallon is a political journalist and author of California Dictatorship: How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis. [read an excerpt]. Patrick is a regular guest on talk radio programs throughout the state and nationally. His website is at and can be contacted at

copyright 2005 Patrick Mallon



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